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He Walks On Water

Matthew 14:22-33

The Rev. Jon Roberts

13 August


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

He Walks On Water

Jesus walks on the water by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888

Just when you think
You can walk no farther,
Jesus comes to you
By walking on water. [1}

Do you recall the painting by Rembrandt where Jesus calms the sea? [2]
It is a beautiful rendering of the twelve disciples in the boat during a terrifying storm on the Sea of Galilee. Half of them are desperately trying to salvage a boat without the use of its sail. The other half are in the stern, staying close to Jesus who seemed unbelievably calm, just waking from a peaceful sleep. The frantic disciples cry out, “Lord, save us, we’re going to drown.” He says to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” With that, he rebukes the wind and the sea calms down.

Although it is familiar, this is not the same story as the one we have heard today.[3] In our story today, we are on the same Sea, a different name. For clarification the Sea of Chinneroth, Tiberius, Gennesaret and Galilee are one in the same. When referenced in any of these ways, we can determine either the historical point or a geographical one. The first story of Jesus calming the sea of Galilee, was further north. It preceded our story today by about six chapters. The context of these two stories is important to the Evangelist, where faith was required in both instances for the disciples in order for the storm at sea to be calmed.

We should hold that earlier account as we enter this fourteenth chapter of St. Matthew where Jesus and his disciples had a very busy week. They just came from Samaria, to the south, where they buried their dear friend, John the Baptist who was executed by Herod the Great. A few days later, a vast crowd of people, some say five thousand, came out in the wilderness to hear Jesus preach, thinking he replaced the prophet who was just killed. Now, Jesus was tired and so were his disciples. He told them to take a boat (and it says it was little) and go across the Lake (not Sea) of Gennesaret. The land that bordered the water was hilly and somewhat mountainous. It overlooked this expanse of water that was no more than five miles across to modern day Syria. He would walk ahead and took a perch on this mountain, overlooking the water.

He knew the value of looking up and finding a quiet place for renewing His Spirit; like dry land waiting for the rain, so was the Son waiting for the Father’s direction. On the fourth watch (as it says in the scripture), that is to say about three o’clock in the morning, a violent storm erupted on the lake. The wind howled and blew across the water. Jesus saw it all. Then, you can believe it or not, Jesus walked across and on top of the water and He calms the storm.

There is another man who we heard about in the Bible who was approached by God. He also experienced a fierce wind, so powerful, that he felt it could split the very rock he was hiding in.[4] Elisha, inside this mountainous enclave, felt a huge storm coming on. Hundreds of prophets were being slaughtered by the insanity of Queen Jezebel. His kind was being completely decimated where he was the last prophet left. He was hiding in the midst of this storm and God said, “What are you doing here?” In the usual signs that a prophet relied on, earthquakes, fires and wind, there was no sighting of God, but only his voice. There, when Elisha felt he was going to be crushed, that’s when he heard God’s voice.
Another miracle.

Sometimes God calms the storm…sometimes. Think about the calamities and storms that came up quick in your life. You thought you would be prepared and that you would have what you needed. There you were in your boat being tossed around, and you called out to God. Maybe you are calling out to Him today. Storms come in many different varieties. Here in Florida, we certainly get our fair share of them, but in the Bible were they physical storms or were they metaphorical? Yes, and yes. That’s the great thing about us who have faith. We can believe it physically happened and that it was a miracle.

What is a miracle? Something you just can’t explain or is a miracle in the context of the Christian something that really speaks to your heart where you know that there is simply no other way to describe this. Something so amazing and powerful came into my life at the perfect moment, when God had my complete attention; that survival was dependent on our listening. It calmed our waters. It called me out and at that moment you just know it was a miracle from God. That’s what we see here and yes the physical aspect of Christ, who has power over nature, can physically walk across water.

Storms can last a long time. On this date, August 13th, shortly after WWII, where Communism came in an erected a wall, separating East from West Berlin. It disjointed families. How long did that storm last? People desperately wanted it to stop. They wanted it to calm and they wanted peace. Sometimes God calms the storm.

Scott Krippayne wrote the following lyrics that relates so well to this.
All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong

Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child

Dearly beloved, you are God’s children and He knows what He has called you to do.
He knows that there are times when you just can’t walk any farther.
Why are you afraid?
Have faith.

I love the painting that does describe this event. It is a 19th century piece by Ivan Aivazovsky. Two centuries after Rembrandt’s painting, “The Calming of the Storm,” Ivan painted this beautiful scene of Jesus walking on the water. Looking from behind this little boat, with disciples squished in like sardines, ahead we see Peter who is walking out on the water towards this glowing figure of the Christ. They thought He was a ghost and Jesus says, “No, it is I.” “Ego-ami”, the Hebrew language that specifically was used to reference God, Elohim, Jehovah. This was not just some simple language that He used to say, “It’s just me, Jesus.” It is the Tetragrammaton that was used only for the Holy. Jesus said, “I am God;” and that is who you see.

Peter, well he was walking for a bit but then he began to sink. Is it not something, that the fierceness of wind and water that threatens to tear us apart and can spread us through, can be used by God to call upon His children in the most miraculous way? Sometimes He calms the storm, but other times He just calls you to be faithful. You have to ride out the storms in life. And when you think you cannot go any farther, Keep your eyes on Christ who is reaching out to you, It is Jesus who comes walking on the water.

[1] Painting by Ivan Aivazovsky, 1888
[2] Matthew 8:23-27
[3] Matthew 14:22-33
[4] 1 Kings 19:9-18

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